Health bosses are warning patients of the dangers of antibiotics resistance and the need for patients to use antibiotics wisely. Last year alone over 25,000 people died across Europe from infections resistant to antibiotics.
The advice comes from NHS South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group ahead of European Antibiotics Awareness Day on 18 November.
Commissioners are warning that antibiotics are important medicines for treating infections caused by bacteria but that many people are unaware that most common illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats and stomach upsets, can improve with over the counter medicines.
Experts say that if patients decide to self-medicate and use antibiotics when they are not needed, the bacteria causing the illness can build up resistance. This means that those antibiotics will not work to treat illnesses in the future and there are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline. By not using them unnecessarily, they are more likely to work when we need them.
Resistance is also caused when antibiotics are not taken for the fully prescribed course. Taking only a partial course of antibiotics means that bacteria will be exposed to the antibiotic but are not given a strong enough course to kill them, resulting in the bacteria surviving and replicating. Consequently, future strains may be more likely to mutate and develop resistance. A survey found that a quarter of people who are prescribed antibiotics don’t finish the prescribed course.
Dr Kevin Hill, Chair of NHS South Lincolnshire CCG
“Using antibiotics to treat common, mild illnesses unnecessarily speeds up the problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics certainly have an important and often lifesaving role in healthcare, but by taking them unnecessarily contributes to the problem of bacteria developing resistance to the antibiotics that they would have once been susceptible to.
The annual EU wide cost of healthcare expenses and lost productivity due to antibiotic resistant bacteria is currently €1.5 billion. By seeking advice from your local pharmacist to treat common illnesses such as coughs and colds, this amount could be significantly reduced.”
European Antibiotics Awareness Day is a European-wide event aiming to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and the importance of prudent antibiotic use.